HBO GO vs. HBO Max vs. HBO NOW: Which One Should You Get?
If you’re a TV fan—and especially if you’re a His Dark Materials fan—there’s a good chance you’re interested in HBO. You used to need a cable or satellite TV subscription for premium channels like HBO, but these days there’s more to this service than just clicking to the right channel.
HBO now offers not one, not two, but three streaming options: HBO GO, HBO NOW, and HBO Max. Each comes with different pricing and availability, but they both have the same great content. So, which one do you need?
What’s the difference between HBO GO, HBO Max, and HBO NOW?
The main difference between HBO GO and HBO NOW is how you get them. HBO NOW is an à la carte streaming option, and HBO GO is an on-the-go feature that comes with a cable subscription or Amazon Prime. The prices are a little different, too, but the content you’ll get from each is exactly the same.
HBO Max, which launches on May 27, 2020, is a standalone streaming service that includes all of HBO’s content in addition to movies, series, cartoons, and more from WarnerMedia Entertainment. New series and other content will also premiere on HBO Max under the title Max Originals.
To get the nitty-gritty, here’s an in-depth breakdown of where the three services overlap and where they differ.
What is HBO GO?
HBO GO is the streaming service that comes along with your HBO cable or satellite subscription. It lets you stream HBO online when you’re away from the TV—so you can still catch up on Watchmen or Catherine the Great.
When it comes to the price, HBO GO is technically free, but you need an existing HBO subscription from your cable or satellite provider to use it. HBO as a premium channel can cost anywhere from $5 to $20 per month, depending on your provider and the promotions available when you order.
But, wait . . . what if you don’t want an HBO subscription? What if you don’t even own a TV? Well, that’s not a problem—just get HBO NOW or (even better) HBO Max instead.
What is HBO NOW?
HBO NOW is a stand-alone streaming platform that lets you watch HBO online without requiring a satellite or cable TV subscription. It’s perfect for cord-cutters and binge-watchers because it means you can watch groundbreaking HBO series like The Sopranos or The Wire without having to invest in a full TV plan.
HBO NOW costs $14.99 per month. You can subscribe through the app on your device or purchase it as an add-on from another service like Hulu.
But we have a feeling that HBO NOW will be obsolete soon, because now HBO has launched its bigger, more impressive brother—HBO Max.
What is HBO Max?
Like HBO NOW, HBO Max is a streaming platform that gives you access to all of HBO’s lovely content without requiring a subscription. In addition to HBO’s series and movies, it also gives you tons of streamable content from the WarnerMedia universe. We’re talking Cartoon Network and Adult Swim; Friends and The Big Bang Theory; Lord of the Rings and Casablanca. And lots of new, original stuff as well.
HBO Max costs $14.99 a month. If you sign up before the official launch date on May 27, you can get 12 months for just $11.99 per month.
You won’t be able to access HBO’s live broadcasts through HBO Max. But new episodes and other content will be uploaded at the same time they premiere on HBO, so you’ll be able to catch premieres for hyped gems like Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon in real time.
HBO NOW customers with existing accounts who subscribe directly through HBO or get billed through Apple or Google Play will be grandfathered into the new service. They’ll automatically get access to HBO Max at no extra price.
If you’re not sure this applies to you, see HBO NOW’s help page to see who you’re billed through and if you’re eligible for an upgrade.
Pricing for HBO GO, HBO NOW, and HBO Max
It’s kind of hard to keep track of which one is which, so here’s a quick breakdown of all the pricing for these different HBO services:
- HBO NOW: $14.99/mo.
- HBO GO: Cable or satellite TV subscription + $5–$20/mo.
- HBO Max: $14.99/mo. ($11.99/mo. for 12 mos. if you preorder)
With Cable or Satellite TV Subscription
HBO GO and HBO NOW offer the same content, while HBO Max—the new service—adds to the pot with lots more movies, series, and originals. We went through the lineups on each service to see what all the biggest highlights were. Take a look:
Best shows and movies on HBO
When it comes to original programming, HBO brings the biggest names in the biz. Here are some of the best shows and movies to watch on HBO right now:
Best shows and movies on HBO Max
HBO Max steps it up in the streamable content game by offering HBO’s celebrated series and movies along with countless titles from WarnerMedia. There’s some major, hotly-anticipated shows, movies, and original productions available on HBO Max.
How to Get HBO
If you’re ready to order HBO, the easiest way is to sign up through your cable or satellite TV provider. Nearly every provider offers the service as an add-on option, and many also include HBO or other premium channels in higher-tier packages. You should also keep an eye out for promotions—it’s not uncommon to find deals like a year of HBO free when you sign up with a new provider.
You can watch HBO NOW on any supported device, including smart TVs, phones, tablets, and computers. In a browser on a computer, go to HBONow.com and start a free trial. You can also get HBO NOW through other apps like Amazon Prime.
Amazon Prime comes with a ton of benefits, including access to HBO without needing a cable subscription. Some of those benefits include free two-day shipping, heavily discounted one-day shipping, access to exclusive deals, and access to Prime Video.
Getting HBO through Prime will run you the standard $14.99 per month. Both Prime and HBO have free trials available through the service, so you can test-drive the services before committing your hard-earned dollars. Incidentally, this is also one of the only ways to get an HBO GO free trial, other than a cable company deal.
How to get HBO Max (if you already have HBO NOW)
If you’re already a subscriber to HBO or HBO NOW, you can sign up for HBO Max and access the Warner content for no extra cost, so long as you meet certain requirements.
Current subscribers to HBO NOW who signed up directly with HBO or through Apple or Google Play will be able to access HBO Max for free once it launches on May 27. You can also get the extra content on HBO Max if you subscribe to HBO through AT&T TV, DIRECTV, AT&T U-Verse, Hulu, or Spectrum.
Unfortunately, if you’re subscribed to HBO through a different cable company or streaming service, it’s possible you may not be able to get hooked up with no-cost access to HBO Max—at least not yet. AT&T, HBO’s parent company, is still in the process of working out the specifics with different third-party partners. You can find updates about which HBO customers will be eligible for Max access at no extra price on HBO Max’s FAQ page.
FAQ about HBO GO, HBO NOW, and HBO Max
What is HBO Max?
HBO Max is a stand-alone streaming platform that features content from HBO and Warner Entertainment. You can sign up for $14.99 per month and you won’t need an HBO cable subscription to do so. It’s a great deal for cord-cutters and binge-watchers.
What content does HBO Max have?
HBO Max features all the content from HBO as well as TV series, movies, and more from Warner Entertainment’s many brands. The catalog includes huge favorites like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, along with new content. And don’t forget the Friends cast reunion.
Will HBO Max replace HBO NOW?
HBO Max does not replace HBO NOW. It’s a separate, stand-alone streaming service that features content from WarnerMedia Entertainment. Launching on May 27, 2020, the service offers HBO programming along with movies, series, and more not available on HBO NOW. Subscribers to HBO NOW who get their subscription straight from HBO will also get plugged into HBO Max when it launches for no extra fee.
How much is HBO Max?
HBO Max costs $14.99 per month. If you sign up before the May 27 launch date, you can get it for $11.99 per month for 12 months.
Are HBO GO and HBO Max the same?
No, they are separate services. HBO GO is the on-demand streaming platform that comes free with the HBO subscription that you get through a cable company or streaming service. HBO Max is a stand-alone streaming service that doesn’t require a TV subscription. It features content from HBO along with more content that isn’t available on HBO GO. You might be able to access HBO Max at no extra cost if you’re a current HBO subscriber, so take a look at HBO Max’s FAQ page for details.
How do I get HBO Max?
You can get HBO Max by signing up for an account on the HBO Max website. If you already have an account for HBO NOW and you signed up for the service through HBO directly, then you can access HBO Max for no additional cost. And if you subscribe to HBO through a cable company or streaming TV service, then you can access HBO Max so long as your subscription is through AT&T TV, DIRECTV, AT&T U-Verse, Hulu, or Spectrum.
Can I watch live HBO on HBO NOW?
Sort of. Technically, HBO NOW is on demand only. However, new episodes are available at the same time they air on live HBO, so you won’t miss anything.
Is HBO free on Amazon Prime?
You can sign up for a weeklong free trial. After that an HBO subscription through Amazon Prime costs $14.99 per month.
Is HBO on Hulu the same as HBO NOW?
Pretty much. Although it’s not actually called HBO NOW, when you subscribe to HBO through Hulu, you also get access to HBO NOW. You can also use the HBO NOW app instead of the Hulu app if you prefer.
Can I download HBO NOW shows?
No, you can’t download HBO NOW shows. So there isn’t a way to watch HBO content offline. Fingers crossed this changes in the future.
Do you get HBO GO with HBO?
Yup, it comes as part of your cable or satellite TV subscription. Just sign on through your provider on the app or the HBO GO homepage.
What is the difference between HBO, HBO GO, HBO Max, and HBO NOW?
HBO is the cable TV channel. HBO GO is a streaming app and web portal you can use to watch content through your cable or satellite TV subscription. HBO NOW is a stand-alone streaming service for HBO programming that doesn’t require a TV or Amazon Prime subscription. HBO Max is a stand-alone streaming service that includes HBO programming along with original content and movies, TV shows, and other titles from Warner Entertainment.
Author - Dave Schafer
Dave has written professionally for tech companies and consumer technology sites for nearly five years, with a special focus on TV and internet. He uses his industry expertise to help readers at HighSpeedInternet.com get the most out of their services. No matter the project, he prefers his coffee black (the stronger, the better).
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.